Unsettled: A Novel

Patricia Reis
Sibylline Press

Publication date: October 10, 2023

As Van Reinhardt clears out her dead father’s belongings, she comes across hints of an unsettling family history, along with a request penned by her father prior to his death that sends her on a genealogical quest. Armed with a 1900 family portrait of her German immigrant ancestors who pioneered a farm in southwestern Iowa in 1870, Van arrives in her family’s hometown braced for a slog and struggle, and is greeted by unexpected warmth.

Aided by a small-town sisterhood of town clerks, record keepers, librarians, and a diner owner who offer interest and support, Van discovers calamitous events in probate records, farm auction lists, asylum records and lurid obituaries, hinting at a history far more complex and tumultuous than she had expected. All the while Van, haunted by her own troubled past, searches to find herself in their narrative. The chance discovery of a small book, sized for a pocket—a secret diary—provides the missing piece, a lost female lineage that sheds light upon a longstanding mystery.

Unsettled delivers what DNA analysis and Ancestry.com cannot. Using memory, imagination and heart, Van constructs her ancestral narrative, uncovers the secrets that have kept her from the truth, and mends the tears in her family story.

“Unsettled is an old-fashioned novel, filled with characters as familiar as family pictures, as touching and as terrifying. Reis writes with assurance about the kinds of secrets that destroyed families generations ago — and maybe still do.”
—Jacquelyn Mitchard, Author of Deep End of the Ocean

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